The subject, of course, is former Vol quarterback Erik Ainge. As a freshman he was compared to Peyton Manning by no less an authority than Phillip Fulmer. As a sophomore he couldn't beat out Rick Clausen. As a junior he broke the school record with a 67-percent completion percentage. As a senior he threw two late interceptions that cost UT the SEC Championship Game.
Ainge bounced back with a strong showing in the Senior Bowl, so his stock continues to rise and fall like the Dow-Jones Industrial Average.
Pete Fiutak, respected columnist for Collegefootballnews.com, ranks the former Vol No. 8 among the quarterbacks available for the upcoming NFL Draft and lists him in a category called "Potential NFL Starters" in a recent CFN.com article entitled “2008 NFL Draft – Rating the Quarterbacks.”
Here's the segment on Ainge:
8. Erik Ainge, QB Tennessee
Think a less awkward Bernie Kosar. While he doesn't have the rocket arm the NFL types would like and he's not mechanically sound enough to be a star, he could be the type of backup quarterback who sits on a bench for two years, comes in and has a huge four game stretch, and then cashes in on the free agent market. No, he's not going to throw a pea through a cement wall like a Joe Flacco, but he proved at Tennessee under offensive coordinator David Cutliffe that he could get the ball in a position for his receivers to do big things. He had a great receiving corps as a junior and was fantastic. He had a developing, young receiving corps as a senior and he was even better. He makes his receivers look better than they actually are.
CFN Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round
Fiutak's top 10 quarterbacks are as follows:
1. Matt Ryan, Boston College (1st round)
2. Brian Brohm, Louisville (late 1st)
3. Chad Henne, Michigan (late 2nd)
4. Andre Woodson, Kentucky (late 2nd)
5. Colt Brennan, Hawaii (3rd to 4th)
6. Joe Flacco, Delaware (2nd)
7. Kevin O'Connell, San Diego State (5th)
8. Erik Ainge, Tennessee (4th to 5th)
9. Josh Johnson, San Diego (4th to 5th)
10. John David Booty, Southern Cal (late 3rd)
Fiutak tabs former LSU standout Matt Flynn No. 12 and rates South Carolina's Blake Mitchell No. 25.